Symptom Management: Muscle Weakness

Introduction

Hey, welcome back to the Thyroidcafe. I had no idea muscle weakness, myopathy, affects 79% of thyroid patients – that’s a ton of people! I’m thankful we live in a time and place in which it’s treatable, though I have my skepticism. However you may want to start treatment before I did. But don’t worry, I made it out alive.

Repelling and Hair untamed 

Contrary to the meek stereotypes of being female, and a christian, I used to love adventure sports. In the summer of 2005, I set out on my Australian outdoor adventure. After a half day hiking, we came to the twenty-five foot falls. I confidently backed off the cliff.  I didn’t know Hashimoto’s disease was stealing my strength. Weak hands shaking. Hoping to hold on as the rope slowly slipped through my hands. I made it. And brushed off my weakness, though I never repelled again. Weakness in my hands was a subtle sign of thyroid disease taking hold of my body. Myopathy can progress, making everyday events such as stairs and doing your hair difficult. It can even be life threatening if not treated. But I think I’ll just use it as an excuse for my untamed tresses. 


The science behind it

Muscle weakness is a vague symptom of thyroid disease. It can be caused by Hypothyroid Myopathy or anemia. All thyroid diseases can cause muscle weakness, aches and cramping. It is typically centralized, in your thighs and shoulders. You may need to bring it up with your doctor, as myopathy can be overlooked or confused with fatigue. Rarely, other complications arise.  As with most thyroid symptoms, we don’t know why thyroid disease causes muscle issues. 

How to not fall down a twenty-five foot waterfall

From the studies I read, myopathy is treated by addressing the thyroid disease with medication. However, T4 levels seem to be affected, so dessicate thyroid pills are the best option. Even on the correct medication, at the appropriate dosage, treatment can take up to a year to take effect. Thyroid disease makes healing into a marathon sport! Along with your pills, physical activity is recommended. However, if you suspect your muscle weakness is due to anemia, a simple iron supplement will have you Hulking in no time. 

Conclusion 

I am always skeptical when thyroid medication is seen as a comprehensive treatment for thyroid symptoms, they seem to linger. Iron pills and optimizing my dosage has lessened my muscle weakness to a liveable level. However, I don’t see anymore waterfalls in my future. 

Symptom Management: Weight

Introduction

Hey, welcome back to the Thyroidcafe. You’ve heard it. A million times. “Diet and exercise would help you lose weight.” But what if there’s more? Holding to this advice alone can leave you frustrated and dejected. But know for thyroid warriors, weight issues is more dynamic than that. We are not crazy or lazy. We are working double time towards a healthier body. Fortunately, weight can be regulated, even with our disease, but it’s a fight. 

Round One: Meds

You’re cruising the highway. The wind blows and the scenery flies by you. But you slow. You push the pedal down, but sputter to a stop. A little orange light glares and you know, you’re going nowhere without gas. Expecting weight loss without getting your thyroid hormones optimal, is as effective as running a car without gas. Because thyroid hormone regulates weight, no amount of diet and exercise can compensate for uncontrolled hormone levels. So medication optimization is first on my list for a reason; it’s the cornerstone to weight loss. 

Round Two: Listening 

A yawn is not a silent scream for coffee, as much as I hate to admit it. It’s your body asking for a need, sleep. Listening to your body isn’t some mystical concept. It’s giving weight (pun intended) to your body’s basic needs. Tracking my diet is one way I learned to listed to my body’s needs. (See “Round Three” below for common problem foods.)  Second, and to my great pleasure, listen to stress levels. When we’re stressed, our bodies increase cortisol levels, which lowers thyroid levels, causing us to gain weight. This is part of the reason extreme calorie restrictions don’t work for thyroid patients. Our bodies are already taxed, adding the stress of excessive calorie restrictions doesn’t help. And if you’re like me, stress leads to gobbling cookies like Shaggy and Scooby. So soak in that bath. See that old friend. Walk in that park. There are many needs we can be attentive to, such as thirst, indigestion, sensitivity to cold, etc. study your body, to understand its needs.

Round Three: Food and water

While “don’t eat fast food or binge drink soda” remains universally good advice, there’s more to diet for thyroid warriors. For us, food can cause weight gain through inflammation. After having kids, I was puffy Marshmallow Meghan. Pictures made me shutter until I read about inflammation. The table below outlines some foods that commonly cause inflammation. I would recommend removing as many as reasonable from your diet, then adding them back in, one at a time. I allowed a few weeks between introductions, to mark how they affected me.  I post a lot of my meals on our Instagram account. They are all easy, family meals.

Foods that cause me inflammationFoods I eat like Augustus Gloop in Willy Wonka
Refined carbs, ie: “white” bread, rice etc  Sugar, Has many listed names, Trans fats, Gluten, dairy, Processed meats oils, alcoholWhole, high healthy fat, plant based proteins, fish, gluten-free food,  fruit and veggies

Another helpful tip for weight loss is to drink plenty of water. No only does this keep the body happily hydrated, it fills the stomach. Diet is a broad topic, which I hope to chat about again at the Thyroidcafe. 

Round Four: Exercise 

I subconsciously took a deep breath before writing this. If you struggle with weight caused by thyroid disease, it is likely your thyroid hormone is on the lower side. If so, you may feel exhausted by the normal events of life. I don’t want to apply undue pressure to people already suffering. Regarding exercise, do what you can, when you can. Gentle exercise, such as walking, swimming and biking are a place to start, once you feel healthy enough to do so. 

Conclusion 

I desperately want to take the burden of this disease from my fellow sufferers. The exhaustion, depression, sensitivity to cold – all of it. But the worst for me was the preconceived notions of others. Maybe it was my age, but I spent years crushed by worry that others would think I was “just lazy and fat.” But ten years on, this previously “lazy, fat” woman just wants to be healthy. I wish we could change the narrative from weight loss, to healthy weight. Because excess weight is a symptom of a larger medical issue. Prescription optimization, diet, and exercise will help you lose weight. But the bigger reward is gaining back our health. 

Sources

“Womans world” and Thyroid Rescue

Introduction

Hi, welcome back to the Thyroidcafe. I wanted to review a  “Woman’s world” article today.  Many in the thyroid community find these articles frustrating. I have read they are misleading and harmful to those who have thyroid disease, so I thought I would look for myself. Amist recipes of bright berry cobbler and Meringue cake, is a two page spread, declaring “Thyroid rescue!” It promises to “reactivate your thyroid to melt thirty pounds in thirty days.” I was cautiously curious.

The Good 

A bold red banner declares “Thyroid Rescue” on July’s front cover, putting our disease literally front and center. At 600,000 copies sold a month, I’m thankful to raise awareness about thyroid disease. Inside the article, it “encourages everyone” to try eliminating sugar and gluten from their diet. It’s great to make the dangers of processed foods known. Giving further hope, the author highlights the importance of diet for thyroid patients by giving the testimony of thyroid warrior who gained health and lost weight on her diet. Excellent! To the right of her picture is a small paragraph. It is the only place in which they outline actual thyroid symptoms and advice. 

The Bad 

While the dietary advice is sound, the article isn’t about thyroid disease. It misleads people into thinking diet either causes or cures thyroid disease. The reader may think those who gain weight because of their thyroid disease can loose weight by changing their diet alone. This is not entirely true. For more information, click here. While diet plays a role in thyroid disease; I hate to think of people judging others based on this articles misinformation. 

The Ugly

What was great about this article, is crammed into the bottom corner. Symptoms are a one sentence synopsis, and medical treatments are an afterthought. If the article is about “Thyroid Rescue,” it’s pertinent to explain the disease and other treatments available. This would be of use to us fighting the disease and to promote understanding and sympathy.  The article places too much focus on one symptom, weight gain. Simplifying symptoms to a weight issue, misleads the reader to play on common insecurities of women. This disease has a dynamic and fundamental effect on its sufferers and the article misses that point.

Conclusion

Sadly, the “Woman’s World” article reflects a common ignorance towards our disease. The simplified suggestions of dietary changes and “sleep 7 hours” belittle the disease and treatments thyroid sufferers face. While I recognize this is no medical journal, it is one way the public sees our disease. I wish the author was more diligent in her studies. Despite this, it puts thyroid illness on display; it promotes a healthy diet and it motivates me to keep telling the truth about our disease. 

Diagnosis Story: Part 3 Getting the Diagnosis

Introduction

Hi, Welcome to the Thyroidcafe, I’m glad you could come. If you’re new, welcome, I hope you find a home here. I’m looking forward to the final installment of the Diagnosis Story. In part two, I introduced my husband. You may remember us as the fools who rushed in? Well, this fool had a little diamond on her left hand before long. In the other hand though, was the responsibility of caring for my terminally ill dad. The difficulty of this time were seen as the cause of my symptoms, until one day I took my health into my hands. A short and deceptive conversation later, I had a diagnosis and prescription in hand. 

The Wedding 

We decided to marry in haste. Being that my dad only had a matter of months, we arranged the wedding in just three months. One thing I wanted to get right was the dress. Despite this, the prospect of trying on dresses seemed like swimming through a pool of melted marshmallows. Exhaustion and brain fog detached me from this happy time. I tried to smile at the appropriate moments, tried to enjoy, but I was too tired. I did, in fact, sleep through many of the major choices made in wedding preparation. My husband stepped in, picking food, setting up decor, and organizing our family. With the kind help of my mom and future mother-in-law, I did get a dress. I hope they understand my gratitude. 

The Funeral 

One thing my family couldn’t help me with was my father’s illness. On our wedding day, he was too sick to attend. Because of the sensitive nature of this time, even I excused my symptoms of depression and exhaustion. My dad died December 12, 2008. Funeral arrangements and other end-of-life affairs are all a blur to me. The depth of my grief fueled an angry, determined fire in me; I needed to get healthy. 

The Hope

Anger is not something women generally speak about. One regret I have is not being open to my doctor about my mental health. I did open up to Google though. After entering my symptoms online, I scrolled through.  I came across a video. A man described symptoms. I found myself in each one. I fought back tears. Hashimoto’s disease. The prospect of a name for my struggle was such a relief. He ended the video saying “there is hope” and there is. 

The Deceptive Diagnosis

Having frequent visits to my doctor during this period, she was clearly annoyed to see me again. In my ignorance, I thought she would be happy that I figured out what was wrong. I was mistaken. She brushed me aside, rejecting my idea. On those sidelines, I made a plan. After she came back from a vacation, I vaguely referenced our thyroid conversation, inferring that she concluded I had Hashimoto’s disease. Then I politely asked for a prescription. I don’t remember if she took blood test or not. But after a lifetime, she gave me my diagnosis.  

Conclusion

Thyroid warriors fight twice. We fight life’s normal battles, and then we take up arms against chronic illness. After repeatedly being overlooked by the medical system, I took a risk and got my diagnosis. While this wasn’t the wisest choice, (I did find a new doctor, and was properly diagnosed) I learned a valuable lesson, my health is my responsibility. That is why Thyroidcafe, and places like it, are so important. So that all thyroid patients can know, there is hope. So thanks, for reading this and joining me in spreading awareness of thyroid diseases.